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Sipadan Island, Malaysian Borneo MALAYSIA’S only oceanic island, Sipadan was formed by living corals that grew on top of an extinct volcanic cone. Considered one of the top five diving locations in the world, it is surrounded by an oval-shaped reef that offers such a diversity of marine life, it would keep even the most experienced diver occupied for weeks and still leave more to explore. For sheer beauty, drop down into the Coral Garden with its

sloped wall of rainbow-coloured coral that teems with fish. Or Turtle Cavern, named for the dozens of turtles that rest in the crevices or float serenely past as if flying. Sheer grace. It is now illegal to stay on the island and the area is protected by restricting dive permits to 120 per day. Instead, stay on the beautiful island of Mabul, which is just 15 minutes away by speedboat. Sipadan Water Village, with just 39 traditionally built wooden

cottages, which stand on stilts over the sea, is a retreat truly away from it all, each with a private sun deck and outdoor whirlpool. As a real diver’s resort this is more rustic than most, but what it lacks in polished luxury, it makes up for in terms of the sheer beauty above and below water. From £2,085 for seven nights including flights and diving. Book with Dive Worldwide (

West Papua, Indonesia FLOAT through enchanting coral gardens with stunning cliffs and the most amazing diversity of fish – West Papua is one of the world’s most biodiverse marine regions. From the majestic manta ray to shipwrecks off the island of Manokwari, this area has it all. In fact, there is so much spectacular diving to be had here, you would be forgiven if

you spent most of your time underwater. It would be a shame, though, to miss a jungle trek into the island, home to many indigenous communities, many of whom have had little contact with the modern world. That is of course, if you can drag yourself away from the Misool Eco Resort. Situated on the private island of Batbitim, it has just eight cottages. Each are built

from reclaimed tropical hardwood and sit on stilts spaced around a crystal clear lagoon. In fact, you don’t even have to get on a boat to dive – simply drop into the water from your private veranda, and in a few fin flips you can descend into the blue to visit the retreat’s own reef. It takes three flights to get to Sorong followed by a four-hour speed boat ride to get here but it is worth it, taking you far away from your normal life. From £2,945 per person based on two sharing, including flights, transfers and full board. Book with Ethos Travel (

Aerial view of Misool Eco Resort. Opposite: a cottage at the resort

Sipadan Water Village. Below, from left: diving near the Coral Garden; Turtle Cavern

DIVE ESSENTIALS Before you don your scuba goggles make sure you’re prepared

n BE SWIMMING FIT Before you are allowed to train for your PADI qualification, which allows you to dive, you must pass a GP medical to say you are fit to go underwater. Make sure you get this before you fly out.

n DON’T DIVE BEFORE YOU FLY It can be tempting to do that one last dive, but if you’re flying home soon after be careful. Flying after a dive can you put you at risk of decompression sickness. Guidelines vary, but a safe rule of thumb is to leave at least 18 hours between diving and flying.

n DON’T FORGET YOUR SCUBA MASK You can rent all the equipment when you are there but if there is one item most experienced divers agree is worth taking, it’s a scuba mask. There is nothing worse than one that just does not fit right.

➔ October/November 2011 57

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